Science Channel - InSCIder

18 Oct

Quarterlife Crisis in Alabama

Slevin (center) with coworkers making a Discover Your Impact SignThis past summer, Discovery employees were invited to go on a Habitat for Humanity service trip to Alabama to help rebuild communities that had been decimated by dozens of tornadoes in the spring. Without even looking at the date of the actual trip, I knew that I wanted to go. I've always had a much easier time relating with co-workers, or even just being myself, outside of the workplace.

Unfortunately, I don't get many opportunities to do that. So to most of my co-workers I'm a bit of a mouse (and a reserved one at that) who'll poke his head out for a joke once in a while if he feels it's good enough. This trip was an opportunity to mingle with co-workers outside of work for 5 days straight. No brainer! Plus, we would be helping people and stuff which is also very good and rewarding. Then, I noticed the date of the trip; it would take place the weekend before my 25th birthday, which was on a Monday.

This coincidence gave the trip some more personal meaning. The last four birthdays have been, "let's go to the bar!" And here I had the chance to do something a little different. Not that I wanted my b-day celebration to be five days of solemn reflection and manual labor for charity, I just wanted to break the mold a bit, you know, all that quater-life crisis stuff.  

I know I said that I would go out and do "weird" things and write about them. Habitat, while certainly special, isn't all that weird. It might be weird to do it for your birthday, but for me that was a coincidence rather than a predetermined decision. What was weird about it was that, when we got down there we weren't building anything at all!

I'll explain. The 125 employees that went on the trip were split into five groups. My group, "team purple" was assigned to a house that had no family and no tornado damage. It was house that was forclosed upon some time ago and fallen into disrepair. The bank had donated it to Habitat. So, while other teams were building houses from scratch with grateful families looking on, we were ripping up stumps in the back yard, tearing down moldy siding and destroying drywall that had been corrupted with milldew.

I wouldn't have had it any other way. There's something about people more familiar with spreadsheets weilding a sledgehammer that makes it much easier to crack jokes with everyone. We all had a lot of fun knocking things down, and I was able to bond with co-workers in a way that would have been disasterously inappropriate if done in the office.

So, it was out with old and in with the...well just out with old I guess. My hope is that it did the same with my reserved nature in the workplace, which I'm guessing is true, because I'm writing about it right now.   

Patrick Slevin

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